The Arts

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Gerry Blackwell
Written by Gerry Blackwell

Upcoming Highlights on the Music Scene

It’s the good ol’ summer time. Livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’, cotton is high. And, hey, there’s music in the park.

Men Without Hats

Rock the Park lands in Harris Park Wednesday, July 11 to Saturday, July 14. It should be a blast — from the not-too-distant past. Thursday’s lineup includes Cyndi Lauper, out to prove girls still want to have fun, and 1980s Canadian new-wavers Platinum Blonde and Men Without Hats (no longer all men and reliably reported to sometimes wear hats). Both have new music to play. And that’s just one day. Friday the 13th will be a lucky day for fans of 1990s pop. The lineup includes multi-platinum-selling rapper Coolio, teen R&B heartthrobs Boyz II Men, and cool-as-a-cucumber En Vogue. (Complete schedule here: goo.gl/GoZSE9.)

Broomsticks and Hammers

Home County Music & Art Festival is back in Victoria Park for the 45th time, Friday, July 20 to Sunday, July 22. The Jim Cuddy Band headlines. This is Blue Rodeo co-founder Cuddy’s moonlight gig, featuring Rodeo members and others. Their latest album, Constellation, came out earlier this year. Also on the Home County bill: perennial favourites Sultans of Swing, Tom Wilson (one of Blackie’s Rodeo Kings), award-winning London folk band Broomsticks & Hammers and Sarnia’s Donovan Woods, a jobbing songwriter in Nashville as well as an accomplished multi-instrument performer. (For a complete schedule: goo.gl/X1EHup.)

Closing out the summer festival season, London Bluesfest 2018 rocks Harris Park from Thursday, August 23 to Sunday, August 26. The artist list skews a bit to the rock side again this year. Sass Jordan is here, and Rare Earth, Savoy Brown, Foghat, and Blue Oyster Cult. But there’s also lots of down-home blues with the iconic Downchild Blues Band, Juno-winning guitar hero Steve Strongman, Bill Durst and closer Colin James of Little Big Band fame. Check out the free London Market Blues event on Wednesday August 22 as well. (For complete Bluesfest schedule: https://goo.gl/rszrJk.)

It’s not all outdoor music festivals, of course. There’s lots of music indoors as well this summer.

Perhaps inspired by Platinum Blonde et al at Rock the Park, London Music Hall has Loverboy, another multi-platinum-selling 1980s new wave band, on July 18. Their last album was 2014’s Unfinished Business, but it seems business still isn’t finished. Thirty years on, the Vancouver-based band continues to tour hard. C’mon out, turn them loose.

The Stratford Summer Music concert series runs all summer in Shakespeareville. Stratford’s Revival House is hosting the cabaret series. Festival veteran Bruce Dow is there July 20 with a show called A Funny Proposition. Dow is an accomplished actor, singer and comedian. Dinner-show packages available.

The Bettys

Jazz for the People is back. The free concerts are at Wolf Performance Hall (Central Library) on the third Wednesday of the month. On July 25 it’s London chanteuse Jennifer Thorpe “and friends.” No word yet on the friends, but Thorpe has performed in the past with fellow London jazz songstress Sonia Gustafson. On August 22 it’s Toronto’s The Bettys, a dazzling harmony group that played a raucous concert in the series a couple of years ago. The Bettys do everything from 1920s jazz to Motown, and dress the part.

Trixie Mattel

Here’s something a little different. London Music Hall is bringing in American drag queen/singer-songwriter/comedian Trixie Mattel. It’s part of Trixie’s “Now With Moving Parts” tour. She’s famous from appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race reality TV show. Which might tell you something. (Hint: over-the-top outrageous.)

Monday, August 6 may not be the weekend but it should be a good day to head up to Bayfield. Hit the beach, have early dinner at one of the fine restaurants, then catch Stratford Celtic-folk outfit Rant Maggie Rant at Bayfield Town Hall. They’re fun and energetic, and this is the perfect homey venue for them.

Head-bangers rejoice! And lament. Slayer, the seminal thrash metal band, is on its “Final World Tour,” and they’re coming to Budweiser Gardens on August 6. This is it, last chance. The London date is part of the tour’s second leg; the first virtually sold out — so don’t take too long deciding.

A few nights later, Thursday, August 9, the Bud has alt-rockers The Smashing Pumpkins, on their “Shiny And Oh So Bright Tour” — also extended after sell-outs elsewhere in North America. It’s London’s good fortune to be one of the added stops. This is the first tour in 20 years to feature three of the founding Pumpkins.

Another Revival House cabaret concert of note on August 10: Carole Pope, best known for “High School Confidential,” the big hit for her old band, Rough Trade. Pope is always surprising, always provocative. The show is called “Carole Pope’s Mystery Tour.” Dinner and show packages available.

Calling all Comic Opera fans. No, not you Gilbert and Sullivan freaks. We’re talking about The Comic Opera. They played together for four years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Now they’re back together in a two-night reunion at London Music Club Friday, August 10 and Saturday, August 11. Will anyone remember? Will they still be able to play? Do they know any Gilbert and Sullivan?

Nazareth may not be quite as obscure, but almost. The Scottish hard-rockers, bigger at home than here, are at London Music Hall on Tuesday, August 28. It’s a stop on their “Howzat” tour. Only bassist Pete Agnew remains from the original foursome that came together in 1968, but he’s still going strong.

One last beach run? Bayfield Town Hall hosts the annual Sunset on Summer BBQ at the park on Saturday, September 1, with music by London alt-country band Cosmic Cowboys. The fun begins at 4:30 p.m. Bring the kids, have a burg and a beer, enjoy the music.

Steve Earle

Roots music stalwarts Steve Earle & The Dukes are at London Music Hall on Sunday, September 9. They’re on a 30th Anniversary tour for their seminal 1988 Copperhead Road album. Country with bite.

Best for last: multi-Grammy winner Keith Urban plays the Bud on Saturday, September 15. Urban, currently on a 58-city tour promoting his new Graffiti U album, needs no introduction, at least not to country fans. The Australian expat has been a mega-star in the country music world for 20 years but also crosses over to the pop charts.

And so ends summer.

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.

About the author

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.